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Two Sad Stories of Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley Cinderella Stories Have Their Dark Side, Too

 

The front page of the local paper today says Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, our local tech-star du-jour,  increased his net worth by $10 billion last year, but all the stories out here haven’t had such happy endings.  The Valley is rife with stories of missed opportunities.  One concerns the formation of Apple.  Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak feared that they wouldn’t be able to compromise effectively so they wrote an ‘older, business type,’ Ron Wayne, in for ten percent as a tiebreaker, making a 45/45/10 split of the company that is now vying to be the biggest in the world. His sad tale is told in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Wayne

A more complicated story, but as sad in its way, concerns who would write the software for the first IBM Personal Computer.  This was in the days when Harvard Business School was preaching to ‘know what you’re good at it and leave the rest to others.’  Based on this advice IBM, having made most of their money in hardware, decided to select others to write the software for the PC.  Before they went to the west coast the IBMers selected CP/M, the standard microprocessor operating system, initially written by Dr. Gary Kildall.  But before they left, they got wind of a hotshot in Seattle who claimed he owned an operating system that would be just perfect.  (Later court cases would find Gates’s software was derivative of CP/M).

I worked for IBM at the time, and the story that was told around the water coolers was that the three execs went up to Seattle first, were impressed by Bill Gates, and told him that while they’d decided on CP/M, he could write the Utilities (ancillary code).  When they flew down to Monterey, they went to Gary Kildall’s house.  His wife told them that it was such a beautiful day that Gary had gone flying.  The word inside IBM was that Gary didn’t think Big Blue would ever play a part in Microprocessor Technology and didn’t want to waste such a glorious day.  The IBMers flew back to Seattle and started the negotiations that formed Microsoft.  Gary died young after a head injury in a Monterey bar, as is shown in the following article.  http://www.digitalresearch.biz/Gary.Kildall.htm